Interview with Taste of Home’s Catherine Cassidy
I have a collection of cookbooks that I keep stacked in my kitchen for occasional use. My husband often laughs at my obsession with them because I will buy two or three and then not touch them for weeks, if not months at a time. I just love the idea that one day I will make something as beautiful and wonderful as the dishes displayed in the photographs of the sleek glossy pages of these amazing books.
Truth is, some of these books will never really be used because of the complexity of many of the recipes in them, but I still hold on to hope.
One of the series of cookbooks and food magazines that I do revisit frequently are those of Taste of Home, and not just because I love the great, simple recipes you will find in their pages (and on their website), but also because the force behind it all is none other than my aunt (in law), Catherine Cassidy, Editor-in-Chief of Taste of Home Media.
As family, I of course, have had the benefit of tasting Catherine’s delicious cooking first hand, but I am also proud of the fact the she has been named one of America’s 50 Most Powerful People in Food – yup right there with Anthony Bourdain, Mrs. Michelle Obama, and Martha Stewart – and I am in awe of how this wife and mother manages to do so much, so well, and get her family together for meals to boot!
We thank Catherine for taking the time out of her very busy schedule to share a little bit about herself with NYCityMama.com readers. We learned about her favorite recipes, her tips on getting the family together, and her greatest influence in the kitchen.
Catherine M. Cassidy
First, I’d like to congratulate you on being named One of America’s 50 Most Powerful People in Food! Your influence in the Taste of Home series is one that is loved across America, making this a well-deserved recognition. Have you always been a foodie?
Noooo. My mom thinks it’s a bit funny that I am where I am today. There was a time when boxed mac and cheese and hot dogs were my standards. But as I started to have people I could cook for—husband, friends, etc.—I began to really enjoy my time in the kitchen, and I got better at it, too. These days, there’s so much going on, it’s hard to find time to cook every day. But we try always to do Sunday dinner with whatever children are around. The youngest is 17, so…sometimes it’s just hubby and the dog.
Who was your greatest influence in the kitchen growing up?
My mom and my grandmother, Gaga, who lived with our family from the time I was 7 years old. There was nothing better on a boring day than to “help” them cook and bake—chocolate chip cookies, devil’s food cake, homemade doughnuts and noodles. Some of the staples in my household come directly from my mom’s recipe box—goulash, Thanksgiving stuffing, “’puzghetti,” chicken and dumplings, banana bread. I did try making Gaga’s noodles once. There was no recipe, and I tried to fake my way through it. Not so much.
What is your strongest suit: baking or cooking?
I really like both, but I love the freedom you have with cooking. At least in my experience, with baking there’s a certain exactness necessary to get a good result. I feel much freer to experiment when I am making a sauce for meat or pasta, a salad dressing, a new veggie idea (just roasted Brussels sprouts for the first time—yummy!) I rarely follow a recipe to the letter when I’m cooking, and allow myself latitude to substitute ingredients—what I have on hand, what’s in season, etc.
How do you find inspiration for new ideas, recipes and cookbooks?
At Taste of Home, we are so lucky to have our many readers, fans and followers. They are our inspiration! They submit recipes to us by the thousands, recipes that have been passed from generation to generation, and they tell us what they are looking for, either directly or via their purchasing habits. The search terms on tasteofhome.com, for instance, speak volumes to what our customers are looking for—chicken recipes in dieting season, grilling ideas when the weather warms up, cookies, cookies, COOKIES during the holidays! Knowing what they are looking is invaluable to helping us plan our print and digital publishing programs.
Taste of Home is a favorite in our kitchen as well. I am particularly fond of The Taste of Home Cookbook, which is one of my favorite Christmas presents to date (thank you!). Is there any one book that is near and dear to your heart?
I love that one, too, and I cook from it often. Another that has become a favorite of my husband Steve is the Taste of Home Grill It! book. He has really developed a passion for grilling, and that book has helped him make some great dinners for us. We had a recipe the other night from the book—Grilled Potato Fans. I had never tried this one, and was skeptical. But it was just delicious!
I loved reading your 15 favorite recipes featured on the Taste of Home website. How often do you bring work into your kitchen?
I recently renovated my kitchen, and while it’s no Architectural Digest masterpiece, it now has a wonderful area for everyone to gather and do homework, read the paper, eat, etc. When I cook these days, I am most likely to whip out my iPad and go to tasteofhome.com from there; I have a recipe box full of my favorites from the site (I think over 150 now). I find the iPad a fabulous kitchen tool, and I LOVE our new digital edition of Taste of Home magazine (now available for iPad and Kindle Fire); the best part is that if you find a recipe you like, you can share it via email, Facebook or Twitter. Awesome!
As a busy mom, wife, and businesswoman, what are your best tips to managing meal times during those hectic weekdays?
It sounds counterintuitive for a busy person, but I find the more you plan, the easier mealtime is. Sunday is generally my shopping day, and I try to have stuff on hand for various home scenarios—I’m traveling and Steve’s on his own, Steve and I are busy and Jackie’s on her own, etc. We love to have rotisserie chicken around; it’s cheap and reliably good and you can make so many things with it. Lean ground beef is good, too, for tacos, sloppy joes, casseroles, etc. I love my freezer; I make big batches of Italian meat sauce, chili and soup and freeze in family-size batches. We just pull out what we need. We have a George Foreman grill, and that makes some awesome sandwiches—even a grilled cheese is better made this way. But on no-cook days (which happen), we’re eating cereal with milk, yogurt, soup and salads.
I love the holidays because it’s a perfect excuse for me to spend time in the kitchen creating meals for my family. Are you big cooker at home as well or is it a shared effort between all?
I love the holidays, too! My very favorite is Thanksgiving, and I think it’s one of yours, too. I seem to remember a Thanksgiving where we had upwards of 30 people in your little apartment in Madison; you needed to use a neighbor’s oven to have the space to bake everything! We were like sardines, but it was wonderful! Those are my favorite occasions, where I have lots of loved ones and I am doing the cooking. Steve is finally learning that all that cooking is not work, it’s actually relaxation for me! My daughters love to help, too, and they’ve mastered quite a few dishes. Jess’ chili is the pride of her apartment complex at Drake, and Jackie makes some of the best crepes I have tasted.
Every family has a favorite dish, which is yours? Would you be willing to share a recipe?
Absolutely. Life is short, so let’s do dessert! Here are two, both from tasteofhome.com. Enjoy!
Food photos courtesy of Taste of Home